The Theatre Royal
No theatre is complete without a few ghosts in it, and the Winchester Threater Royal is no different. Many strange apparitions have been spotted in this very building, from one of the founders John Simpkins, who has been seen crossing the threshold, to a dancing girl who appears on stage, to a dead technician who perished in the war and came back to see his beloved perform one last time…
Welcome to Weird Winchester, a story-tour of some of Winchester’s most haunted buildings, brought to you by Enigmatic Studios and the University of Winchester’s Creative Writing Department!
The Dancing Girl
Staring at my satin clad feet, I barely heard the good luck endearment whispered to me as we waited in the wing. My mind was elsewhere. In trenches and battlefields. With him. Mother had said dancing in the first musical since the Theatre Royal reopened was an honour, “Good for morale”. But being here without him, in the place we met, seemed wrong somehow.
The curtain drew back and the troupe began to move forward in unison, taking me with it. I stumbled momentarily having missed the cue. First position. My body moved independently, my subconscious remembering the steps, keeping me in time with the others. En pointe. As we rhythmically played out the routine across the wooden stage, I couldn’t seem to draw my eyes from the spotlight, from where he would have been. Arabesque. The war was almost over they’d said, and he would soon be home, but I couldn’t conceive of what condition he would return to us in. I thought of where he might be now, what he might be suffering. The orchestra’s melodic tune becoming the backdrop to my mind’s wonderings. The drums tapped out bullets that sprayed past my ears. Had he been injured? Each cymbal an explosion that clattered through my chest. Had he witnessed death?
My attention was drawn to a man, standing in the front row, motionless. I couldn’t understand why no-one was telling him to move. He was obscured by the lights above but I could see he was wearing khaki, a uniform. He was a soldier.
The uniform wasn’t clean or pressed, but battered and torn. A mixture of mud and debris and blood smattered his tunic. I wasn’t dancing anymore, the other girls knocking into me as I stood stock still on the stage, staring at the uniformed man. The audience began confused mutterings, and I shielded my eyes from the glare of a spotlight to get a better view. He was completely still, eyes wide and unblinking in horror, lungs no longer filling with air. “Michael!”
I rushed toward him, but as I neared his body jolted. A wound appeared in his chest, causing a crimson stream
to run down his uniform. He dropped to his knees but his eyes remained forward, staring at some unseen
terror behind me. His mouth sagged open and blood began to gush from it, blanketing the floor around him. I’m not sure if I screamed, unaware if anyone ran to my aid. I watched as everything turned from red to grey to black.
Michael Phillips, “killed in action”. Their Gracious Majesties, the King and Queen, send sympathies.
‘The Dancing Girl’ by C.M Hardman. Read by Kerry Fussell.
C.M. Hardman is a Hampshire-based Horror writer. Currently studying Creative Writing at the University of Winchester, she is a mother and a wife, who is particularly interested in the macabre.
Look out for more Weird Winchester stories in different locations across the city! Next, why don’t you try the Discovery Centre?
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